Wildebeest Lesson for Kids: Facts & Migration

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

What would an enormous group of wildebeests make the same trip every year in a big circle? In this lesson, we'll learn about wildebeests, an animal that lives in Eastern Africa, and their incredible migration.

What Is a Wildebeest?

Crossing a river full of crocodiles is not anything you or I would probably ever want to do. Luckily, we're not wildebeests, who have to face crocodiles and other predators during their annual migration, a trip they take every year. Wildebeests, a kind of antelope, are also called gnus.

They live in Eastern Africa in the savanna, a large grassy area with shrubs and trees. There are several different kinds of wildebeests, depending on where they live. The western white-bearded wildebeest are the most common type, and the smallest in size.

Wildebeest
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Facts about Wildebeests

Wildebeests, whose name comes from the words ''wild beast,'' are large animals - they weigh between 265 and 600 pounds and are about 4-5 feet tall at the shoulders. When you look at a picture of a wildebeest, one of the first things you might notice is their big heads and manes. They have tall shoulders, black or white beards, and gray coats. Both males and females have horns on their heads.

Wildebeests make loud noises, snorts, and grunts, and can run about 40 miles per hour, which is as fast as a car! They usually live about 20 years, but some live longer.

Lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and hunting dogs all hunt wildebeests. Wildebeests themselves are herbivores and just eat plants. They're always grazing or eating grass, which is what leads them on their great migration.

Herd of wildebeest on the savanna
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Wildebeest Migration

The wildebeest migration is an incredible part of nature! As we said, wildebeests are always looking for grass to eat and water to drink, so they can't stay in the same place, especially once the dry season starts in April and May, making it harder to find fresh grass.

Wildebeests move together in big groups called herds and cover a tremendous distance, traveling 500 to 1,000 miles. They actually go in one huge circle or loop, and eventually come back to the Serengeti Plains, where they started. They stay for the rainy season and eat the new grass, usually from November to March.

Over a million wildebeests make the journey, but many do not survive the long, difficult trip. They have to cross the Mara River and other waterways, which are home to the ferocious Nile crocodiles. Some zebra and gazelles also go with them. People also visit the area to watch this amazing sight.

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